Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

May 22, 2013

Art Judges Economy, Not Vice Versa

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Art Judges Economy, Not Vice Versa
   
   

Pyramid of Capitalist SystemPart of the ideal in creating an economy is to figure out how to optimize growth and production and decrease scarcity, while at the same time distributing goods in beneficial ways. Furthermore, with the absence of tyranny, everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth. So any command aspects of the economy would only be to serve the greater good, as would any and all self-interest aspects.

What happens when some people, our infirm for instance, cannot participate in the machinery of the economic system? More generally, what happens with those who are unable, such that common interest collides with self interest? The idea is to return to the ideal and say that “everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth.” That is where the re-creation or evolution of the economic system pivots, where at all times it is in service to a representative government, an ideal that should remain what we are continuously striving to perfect, no matter how entrenched our imperfect system gets.

Those unable or less able to participate in what has been set up to benefit us all, still should participate fully in the benefits. We just have a hard time getting a system going that works like that, as we continuously compromise ourselves to the imperfect system. There is no good reason, other than some ultimate benefit to everyone, that Bill Gates should have more money and access to the good life, than any other single one of us. He may be a good person, but he is not billions of times better as a person than someone who is unable to do works such as he has done. The bottom line, as it were, is that we would value each citizen equally and fully, and to be continuously questioning how we can change our economic system such that it serves each and all of us better.

The same thing that happens with those who are either unable or less able to participate in an economic system that pivots on self interest, is what happens with those attending to the arts and spiritual aspects of life. They are either sidelined or not in the game. The strength of an economy is measured by what the bean counters can attend to. Yet art and spirituality cannot be effectively measured this way. Where is the evidence that Frida Kahlo’s paintings are worthy of anything more or other than a place on a rich person’s wall? What The Water Gave Me, by Frida KahloThere may be none, but they are far more and otherwise worthy. That our bean-counting market system makes little or less room for the theologians and artists among us, does not mean that they should not be part of the “everyone” who “would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth,” or be the beneficiaries of what might be considered the charity of the more “fortunate”.

Nor does it mean that we should align with bean counters who only wonder if people would be more productive and earn more money if and how they are spiritual and enjoy which types of art. It is only one aspect of art, of Frida Kahlo’s works, that somehow they would make anyone a more productive employee. Art is not for the economy’s sake. Art is in no way in service to the market system. One of its functions is to be there to expose the economy for its faults. Who’s judging who? Art judges economy, not vice versa.

The manufacturing tycoon’s money is merely his, because the rest of us say he can have it, and only for as long as the rest of say he can have it. It may be a game of Monopoly we’ve decided to play, but Monopoly is only a game, and a person’s net value is not ultimately measured in how she plays such a game, or even her interest in it. Any money we say that the tycoon must give over to art or spirituality, that part that we say that he cannot have, is not his. That’s our money in a representative government—just as in a monarchy we would say he is rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

We get the bean counters, who want artists and theologians to justify themselves to the economy, when their justification is to the greater citizenry, to humanity as a whole, to humanity through time, and any life or spirituality that may be transcendent of that. It is part of being human to create good art, bad art, and everything in between. It is a sick, lopsided society that, when the economy is failing, the artists and theologians are made to suffer disproportionately.

Yes, there is a case for bad art. For instance, Samina Malik, who was jailed in the UK for writing a bad poem, and then rightly let go. The creative process is so misunderstood, the political machinery in its ignorance had her incarcerated for a time.

Let’s look at another case of poetry, one that may or may not be good, depending on what you as an individual think of it. After then-poet laureate of New Jersey Amiri Baraka recited his poem Somebody Blew Up America, the state decided to no longer have a poet laureate, to completely do away with the position. The challenge to the political establishment was too great.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, BakuA benefit from art and spirituality is that they challenge the status quo of the money machine, which can lead to an industrial machine, a science machine, a technology machine, to the point of being a threat. Laws are created to prevent such threats, and artists and spiritual activists throughout time, up to and including today, are imprisoned, some tortured, and some even killed for their expressions.

Arts and humanities show us more of what it means to be human. At a basic level, an artist may simply be displaying what it is like to be another person. Culturally broader art steps outside the established modes of thinking and being, to display wider possibilities than are available in society. When it is not pointing directly to the outcomes of greed and the plight of those left outside the machinery, it can be bringing us beauty to consider, or even ugliness, other ways of seeing the world and our place in it, that are not part of the paradigm needed to produce goods and make profits.

I have news for you atheists: there may be a god. You don’t know. You have decided. That there is no room for god in commerce, is a great pull to atheism. Atheists have selected to believe that which is available within the limitations of commerce and industry. When we check out at a store, the cashier says, “Thank you” to us, not “Thank you and god bless”–heaven forbid. Or how about, “Thank you, you are loved”?

There are fully other sides to being human, than those fostered by the economy left to itself as a system, a system bent on growing and absorbing each of us. There are aspects to being human that an economy given full power would not allow us to participate in, or even hint at. Art so threatens. Spirituality brings morals and ethics that threaten. These parts of us are transcendent of the social and economic systems that we have chosen for ourselves.

We need to interject, to say that everyone gets to participate in art and spirituality, just as “everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth.” We are all not only above the law, but above the economy.
   

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December 21, 2008

. . . and don’t forget these Christmas poems

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

lj-bridgmans-on-the-way-to-christmas-eve-service-in-norway

 
 
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Anonymous
 

At the Last
 

      The stream is calmest when it nears the tide,
      And flowers are sweetest at eventide,
      The birds most musical at close of day,
      The saints divinest when they pass away.

      Morning is holy, but a holier charm
      Lies folded in evening’s robe of balm;
      And weary men must ever love her best.
      For morning calls to toil, but night to rest.

      She comes from heaven and on her wings doth bear
      A holy fragrance, like the breath of prayer;
      Footsteps of angels follow in her trace,
      To shut the weary eyes of Day in peace.

      All things are hushed before her, as she throws
      O’er earth and sky her mantle of repose;
      There is a calmer beauty, and a power
      That Morning knows not, in the Evening’s hour.

      Until the evening we must weep and toil—
      Plough life’s stern furrow, dig the woody soil,
      Tread with sad feet the rough and thorny way,
      And bear the heat and burden of the day.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

lj-bridgmans-a-christmas-bonfire-in-russia

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
 

Ballade of Christmas Ghosts
 

      Between the moonlight and the fire
      In winter twilights long ago,
      What ghosts we raised for your desire,
      To make your merry blood run slow!
      How old, how grave, how wise we grow!
      No Christmas ghost can make us chill,
      Save those that troop in mournful row,
      The ghosts we all can raise at will!

      The beasts can talk in barn and byre
      On Christmas Eve, old legends know.
      As year by year the years retire,
      We men fall silent then I trow,
      Such sights hath memory to show,
      Such voices from the silence thrill,
      Such shapes return with Christmas snow,—
      The ghosts we all can raise at will.

      Oh, children of the village choir,
      Your carols on the midnight throw,
      Oh, bright across the mist and mire,
      Ye ruddy hearths of Christmas glow!
      Beat back the dread, beat down the woe,
      Let’s cheerily descend the hill;
      Be welcome all, to come or go,
      The ghosts we all can raise at will.

      Friend, sursum corda, soon or slow
      We part, like guests who’ve joyed their fill;
      Forget them not, nor mourn them so,
      The ghosts we all can raise at will.

 

 
 
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c-mullers-the-holy-night

 
 
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by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
 

The Birth of Christ

      The time draws near the birth of Christ;
        The moon is hid—the night is still;
        The Christmas bells from hill to hill
      Answer each other in the mist.

      Four voices of four hamlets round,
        From far and near, on mead and moor,
        Swell out and fail, as if a door
      Were shut between me and the sound.

      Each voice four changes on the wind,
        That now dilate and now decrease,
        Peace and good-will, good-will and peace,
      Peace and good-will to all mankind.

      Rise, happy morn! rise, holy morn!
        Draw forth the cheerful day from night;
        O Father! touch the east, and light
      The light that shone when hope was born!

 

 
 
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christmas-in-naples-an-italian-presipio

 
 
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by Joe Cone (1869-?1925)
 

The Christmas Feeling
 

      I like the Christmas Feeling that is filling all the air,
      That fills the streets and busy stores, and scatters everywhere;
      I like the easy manner of the people on the street,
      The bundle-laden people, and the shop-girls smiling sweet.
      There’s a glow of warmth and splendor in the windows everywhere,
      There’s a glow in people’s faces which has lately stolen there;
      And everywhere the bells ring out with merry peal and chime,
      Which makes me like the Feeling of the happy Christmas time.

      I like the Christmas Feeling; there is nothing can compare
      With the free and kindly spirit that is spreading everywhere;
      And every heart for once is full of good old Christmas cheer.
      I like to Feel the presents as they reach me day by day;
      The presence of the presents drives my loneliness away.
      To Feel that I’m remembered is a Feeling most sublime,
      The Feeling of the Feeling of the happy Christmas time.

 

 
 
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the-nativity-from-add-ms-32454-in-the-british-museum-french-15th-century

 
 
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by Margaret Deland (1857-1945)
 

The Christmas Silence
 

      Hushed are the pigeons cooing low
        On dusty rafters of the loft;
        And mild-eyed oxen, breathing soft,
      Sleep on the fragrant hay below.

      Dim shadows in the corner hide;
        The glimmering lantern’s rays are shed
        Where one young lamb just lifts his head,
      Then huddles ‘gainst his mother’s side.
     
      Strange silence tingles in the air;
        Through the half-open door a bar
        Of light from one low-hanging star
      Touches a baby’s radiant hair.

      No sound: the mother, kneeling, lays
        Her cheek against the little face.
        Oh human love! Oh heavenly grace!
      ‘Tis yet in silence that she prays!

      Ages of silence end to-night;
        Then to the long-expectant earth
        Glad angels come to greet His birth
      In burst of music, love, and light!

 

 
 
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lj-bridgmans-christmas-festivity-in-seville

 
 
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by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
 

Church Decking at Christmas
 

      Would that our scrupulous sires had dared to leave
        Less scanty measure of those graceful rites
        And usages, whose due return invites
      A stir of mind too natural to deceive;
      Giving the memory help when she could weave
        A crown for Hope!—I dread the boasted lights
        That all too often are but fiery blights,
      Killing the bud o’er which in vain we grieve.
      Go, seek, when Christmas snows discomfort bring,
        The counter Spirit found in some gay church
        Green with fresh holly, every pew a perch
      In which the linnet or the thrush might sing,
        Merry and loud, and safe from prying search,
      Strains offered only to the genial spring.

 

 
 
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kenny-meadows-a-merry-christmas

 
 
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by William Barnes (1801-1886)
 

The Farmer’s Invitation
 

      Come down to-marra night; an’ mind
      Don’t leave thy fiddle-bag behind.
      We’ll shiake a lag, an’ drink a cup
      O’ yal to kip wold Chris’mas up.

      An’ let thy sister tiake thy yarm,
      The wa’k woont do ‘er any harm:
      Ther’s noo dirt now to spwile her frock
      Var ‘t a-vroze so hard ‘s a rock.

      Ther bent noo stranngers that ‘ull come,
      But only a vew naighbors: zome
      Vrom Stowe, an’ Combe; an’ two ar dree
      Vrom uncles up at Rookery.

      An’ thee woot vind a ruozy fiace,
      An’ pair ov eyes so black as sloos,
      The pirtiest oones in al the pliace.
      I’m sure I needen tell thee whose.

      We got a back-bran’, dree girt logs
      So much as dree ov us can car:
      We’ll put ’em up athirt the dogs,
      An’ miake a vier to the bar.

      An’ ev’ry oone wull tell his tiale,
      An’ ev’ry oone wull zing his zong,
      An’ ev’ry oone wull drink his yal,
      To love an’ frien’ship al night long.

      We’ll snap the tongs, we’ll have a bal,
      We’ll shiake the house, we’ll rise the ruf,
      We’ll romp an’ miake the maidens squal,
      A catchen o’m at bline-man’s buff.

      Zoo come to marra night, an’ mind
      Don’t leave thy fiddle-bag behind.
      We’ll shiake a lag, an’ drink a cup
      O’ yal to kip wold Chris’mas up.

 

 
 
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ara-coelis-the-bambino

 
 
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by Alfred H. Domett
 

The First Roman Christmas
 

      It was the calm and silent night!
        Seven hundred years and fifty-three
      Had Rome been growing up to might,
        And now was queen of land and sea.
      No sound was heard of clashing wars,
        Peace brooded o’er the hushed domain;
      Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and Mars
        Held undisturbed their ancient reign,
            In the solemn midnight
              Centuries ago.

      ‘Twas in the calm and silent night!
        The senator of haughty Rome
      Impatient urged his chariot’s flight,
        From lonely revel rolling home.
      Triumphal arches, gleaming, swell
        His breast with thoughts of boundless sway;
      What recked the Roman what befell
        A paltry province far away
            In the solemn midnight
              Centuries ago?

      Within that province far away
        Went plodding home a weary boor;
      A streak of light before him lay,
        Fallen through a half-shut stable-door,
      Across his path. He passed; for naught
        Told what was going on within.
      How keen the stars! his only thought;
        The air how calm, and cold, and thin!
            In the solemn midnight
              Centuries ago.

      O strange indifference! Low and high
        Drowsed over common joys and cares;
      The earth was still, but knew not why;
        The world was listening unawares.
      How calm a moment may precede
        One that shall thrill the world forever!
      To that still moment none would heed,
        Man’s doom was linked, no more to sever,
            In the solemn midnight
              Centuries ago.

      It is the calm and solemn night!
        A thousand bells ring out and throw
      Their joyous peals abroad, and smite
        The darkness, charmed, and holy now!
      The night that erst no name had worn,
        To it a happy name is given;
      For in that stable lay, new-born,
        The peaceful Prince of earth and heaven,
            In the solemn midnight
              Centuries ago.

 

 
 
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john-gilberts-knighting-the-loin-of-beef

 
 
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Anonymous
 

The Knighting of the Sirloin of Beef by Charles the Second
 

      The Second Charles of England
        Rode forth one Christmas tide,
      To hunt a gallant stag of ten,
        Of Chingford woods the pride.

      The winds blew keen, the snow fell fast,
        And made for earth a pall,
      As tired steeds and wearied men
        Returned to Friday Hall.

      The blazing logs, piled on the dogs,
        Were pleasant to behold!
      And grateful was the steaming feast
        To hungry men and cold.

      With right good-will all took their fill,
        And soon each found relief;
      Whilst Charles his royal trencher piled
        From one huge loin of beef.

      Quoth Charles, “Odd’s fish! a noble dish!
        Ay, noble made by me!
      By kingly right, I dub thee knight—
        Sir Loin henceforward be!”

      And never was a royal jest
        Received with such acclaim:
      And never knight than good Sir Loin
        More worthy of the name.

 

 
 
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gentile-da-fabrianos-the-adoration-of-the-magi

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

Anonymous
 

Madonna and Child
 

                  This endris night
                  I saw a sight,
                    A star as bright as day;
                  And ever among
                  A maiden sung,
                    Lullay, by by, lullay.

      This lovely lady sat and sang, and to her child she said,—
      “My son, my brother, my father dear, why liest thou thus in hayd?
                  My sweet bird,
                  Thus it is betide
                    Though thou be king veray;
                  But, nevertheless,
                  I will not cease
                    To sing, by by, lullay.”

      The child then spake; in his talking he to his mother said,—
      “I bekid am king, in crib though I be laid;
                  For angels bright
                  Down to me light,
                    Thou knowest it is no nay,
                  And of that sight
                  Thou mayest be light
                    To sing, by by, lullay.”

      “Now, sweet Son, since thou art king, why art thou laid in stall?
      Why not thou ordain thy bedding in some great kingès hall?
                  Methinketh it is right
                  That king or knight
                    Should be in good array;
                  And them among
                  It were no wrong
                    To sing, by by, lullay.”

      “Mary, mother, I am thy child, though I be laid in stall,
      Lords and dukes shall worship me and so shall kingès all.
                  Ye shall well see
                  That kingès three
                    Shall come on the twelfth day;
                  For this behest
                  Give me thy breast
                    And sing, by by, lullay.”

      “Now tell me, sweet Son, I thee pray, thou art my love and dear,
      How should I keep thee to thy pay and make thee glad of cheer?
                  For all thy will
                  I would fulfil
                    Thou weet’st full well in fay,
                  And for all this
                  I will thee kiss,
                    And sing, by by, lullay.”

      “My dear mother, when time it be, take thou me up aloft,
      And set me upon thy knee and handle me full soft.
                  And in thy arm
                  Thou wilt me warm,
                    And keep me night and day;
                  If I weep
                  And may not sleep
                    Thou sing, by by, lullay.”

      “Now, sweet Son, since it is so, all things are at thy will,
      I pray thee grant to me a boon if it be right and skill,
                  That child or man,
                  That will or can,
                    Be merry upon my day;
                  To bliss them bring,
                  And I shall sing,
                    Lullay, by by, lullay.”

 

 
 
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joseph-kellner-egraving-the-german-christmas-tree-in-the-eighteenth-century

 
 
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by William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
 

The Mahogany-Tree
 

      Christmas is here;
      Winds whistle shrill,
      Icy and chill,
      Little care we;
      Little we fear
      Weather without,
      Sheltered about
      The Mahogany-Tree.

      Once on the boughs
      Birds of rare plume
      Sang in its bloom;
      Night-birds are we;
      Here we carouse,
      Singing, like them,
      Perched round the stem
      Of the jolly old tree.

      Here let us sport,
      Boys, as we sit—
      Laughter and wit
      Flashing so free.
      Life is but short—
      When we are gone,
      Let them sing on,
      Round the old tree.

      Evenings we knew,
      Happy as this;
      Faces we miss,
      Pleasant to see.
      Kind hearts and true,
      Gentle and just,
      Peace to your dust!
      We sing round the tree.

      Care like a dun,
      Lurks at the gate;
      Let the dog wait;
      Happy we’ll be!
      Drink, every one;
      Pile up the coals;
      Fill the red bowls,
      Round the old tree!

      Drain we the cup.—
      Friend, art afraid?
      Spirits are laid
      In the Red Sea.
      Mantle it up;
      Empty it yet;
      Let us forget,
      Round the old tree!

      Sorrows begone!
      Life and its ills,
      Duns and their bills,
      Bid we to flee.
      Come with the dawn,
      Blue-devil sprite;
      Leave us to-night,
      Round the old tree!

 

 
 
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correggios-the-virgin-adoring-the-infant-child

 
 
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by M. Nightingale
 

Mary Had A Little Lamb
 

      The Blessed Mary had a lamb,
      It too was white as snow,
      Far whiter than I ever am—
      Always and always so.

      She found it lying in the stall
      Wherefrom the oxen fed,
      With hay for bedding, hay for shawl,
      And hay beneath its head.

      She followed near it every day
      In all the paths it trod,
      She knew her lamb could never stray
      (It was the Lamb of God).

      And when the cloud of angels came
      And hid It from her sight,
      Its heart was near her all the same
      Because her own was white.

      So when she slept white lilies screened
      Her sleep from all alarms,
      Till from His Throne her white lamb leaned
      And waked her in His Arms.

 

 
 
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harrison-s-morris-the-yule-log-glow

 
 
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by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
 

The New-Years Gift
 

      Let others look for pearl and gold
      Tissues, or tabbies manifold;
      One only lock of that sweet hay
      Whereon the Blessed Baby lay,
      Or one poor swaddling-clout, shall be
      The richest New-Year’s gift to me.

 

 
 
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blindmans-buff

 
 
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by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
 

The New-Years Gift Sent to Sir Simeon Steward
 

      No news of navies burnt at sea,
      No noise of late-spawned Tityries,
      No closet plot or open vent
      That frights men with a Parliament:
      No new device or late-found trick,
      To read by the stars the kingdom’s sick;
      No gin to catch the State, or wring
      The free-born nostrils of the king,
      We send to you, but here a jolly
      Verse crowned with ivy and with holly;
      That tells of winter’s tales and mirth
      That milkmaids make about the hearth,
      Of Christmas sports, the wassail-bowl,
      That’s tost up after fox-i’-th’-hole;
      Of Blindman-buff, and of the care
      That young men have to shoe the mare;
      Of Twelve-tide cake, of peas and beans,
      Wherewith ye make those merry scenes,
      When as ye choose your king and queen,
      And cry out: Hey, for our town green!
      Of ash-heaps, in the which ye use
      Husbands and wives by streaks to choose;
      Of crackling laurel, which foresounds
      A plenteous harvest to your grounds;
      Of these and such like things, for shift,
      We send instead of New-Year’s gift:
      Read then, and when your faces shine
      With buxom meat and cap’ring wine,
      Remember us in cups full-crowned,
      And let our city-health go round,
      Quite through the young maids and the men
      To the ninth number, if not ten;
      Until the fired chestnuts leap
      For joy to see the fruits ye reap
      From the plump chalice and the cup
      That tempts till it be tosséd up.
      Then, as ye sit about your embers,
      Call not to mind those fled Decembers;
      But think on these that are to appear
      As daughters to the instant year;
      Sit crowned with rose-buds, and carouse,
      Till Liber Pater twirls the house
      About your ears; and lay upon
      The year, your cares, that’s fled and gone.
      And let the russet swains the plough
      And harrow hang up resting now;
      And to the bagpipe all address
      Till sleep takes place of weariness;
      And thus, throughout, with Christmas plays
      Frolic the full twelve holydays.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

ferdinand-waldmullers-christmas-morning-in-lower-austria

 
 
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by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
 

Saint Distaff’s Day, the Morrow After Twelfth Day
 

      Partly work and partly play
      Ye must on St. Distaff’s day;
      From the plough soon free your team,
      Then come home and fodder them;
      If the maids a-spinning go,
      Burn the flax and fire the tow;
      Scorch their plackets, but beware
      That ye singe no maiden-hair;
      Bring in pails of water then,
      Let the maids bewash the men;
      Give St. Distaff all the right,
      Then bid Christmas sport good-night,
      And next morrow every one
      To his own vocation.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

john-gilberts-christmas-for-ever

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

Anonymous
 

Santa Claus
 

      He comes in the night! He comes in the night!
        He softly, silently comes;
      While the little brown heads on the pillows so white
        Are dreaming of bugles and drums.
      He cuts through the snow like a ship through the foam,
        While the white flakes around him whirl;
      Who tells him I know not, but he findeth the home
        Of each good little boy and girl.

      His sleigh it is long, and deep, and wide;
        It will carry a host of things,
      While dozens of drums hang over the side,
        With the sticks sticking under the strings:
      And yet not the sound of a drum is heard,
        Not a bugle blast is blown,
      As he mounts to the chimney-top like a bird,
        And drops to the hearth like a stone.

      The little red stockings he silently fills,
        Till the stockings will hold no more;
      The bright little sleds for the great snow hills
        Are quickly set down on the floor.
      Then Santa Claus mounts to the roof like a bird,
        And glides to his seat in the sleigh;
      Not the sound of a bugle or drum is heard
        As he noiselessly gallops away.

      He rides to the East, and he rides to the West,
        Of his goodies he touches not one;
      He eateth the crumbs of the Christmas feast
        When the dear little folks are done.
      Old Santa Claus doeth all that he can;
        This beautiful mission is his;
      Then, children, be good to the little old man,
        When you find who the little man is.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

hm-pagets-bringing-in-the-yule-log

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Edwin Lees
 

Signs of Christmas
 

      When on the barn’s thatch’d roof is seen
      The moss in tufts of liveliest green;
      When Roger to the wood pile goes,
      And, as he turns, his fingers blows;
      When all around is cold and drear,
      Be sure that Christmas-tide is near.

      When up the garden walk in vain
      We seek for Flora’s lovely train;
      When the sweet hawthorn bower is bare,
      And bleak and cheerless is the air;
      When all seems desolate around,
      Christmas advances o’er the ground.

      When Tom at eve comes home from plough,
      And brings the mistletoe’s green bough,
      With milk-white berries spotted o’er,
      And shakes it the sly maids before,
      Then hangs the trophy up on high,
      Be sure that Christmas-tide is nigh.

      When Hal, the woodman, in his clogs,
      Bears home the huge unwieldly logs,
      That, hissing on the smould’ring fire,
      Flame out at last a quiv’ring spire;
      When in his hat the holly stands,
      Old Christmas musters up his bands.

      When cluster’d round the fire at night,
      Old William talks of ghost and sprite,
      And, as a distant out-house gate
      Slams by the wind, they fearful wait,
      While some each shadowy nook explore,
      Then Christmas pauses at the door.

      When Dick comes shiv’ring from the yard,
      And says the pond is frozen hard,
      While from his hat, all white with snow,
      The moisture, trickling, drops below,
      While carols sound, the night to cheer,
      Then Christmas and his train are here.

 

 
 
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madonna-enthroned-with-saints-and-angels-pesellino

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Charles Mackay (1814-1889)
 

Under the Holly-Bough
 

      Ye who have scorned each other,
      Or injured friend or brother,
        In this fast-fading year;
      Ye who, by word or deed,
      Have made a kind heart bleed,
        Come gather here!
      Let sinned against and sinning
      Forget their strife’s beginning,
        And join in friendship now.
      Be links no longer broken,
      Be sweet forgiveness spoken
        Under the Holly-Bough.

      Ye who have loved each other,
      Sister and friend and brother,
        In this fast-fading year:
      Mother and sire and child,
      Young man and maiden mild,
        Come gather here;
      And let your heart grow fonder,
      As memory shall ponder
        Each past unbroken vow;
      Old loves and younger wooing
      Are sweet in the renewing
        Under the Holly-Bough.

      Ye who have nourished sadness,
      Estranged from hope and gladness
        In this fast-fading year;
      Ye with o’erburdened mind,
      Made aliens from your kind,
        Come gather here.
      Let not the useless sorrow
      Pursue you night and morrow,
        If e’er you hoped, hope now.
      Take heart,—uncloud your faces,
      And join in our embraces
        Under the Holly-Bough.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

masaccios-the-adoration-of-the-magi

 
 
angel-divider

June 14, 2008

Ten Thousand Thanks

_____

   

   

Thank you ten thousand times.

Just a few hours ago, the most popular post yet here at Clattery MacHinery on Poetry, Alley War Poetry, received its 10,000th hit. That’s a lot of readers for a poetry blog post.

I’ve had ten thousand thoughts come and go, about how good or how bad it may be; ten thousand hopes that the people portrayed or cited in the article are happy with their portrayals, and that it adds to their lives or legacies; ten thousand concerns that the article does not disappoint the seeker or surfer who just might be reading at that moment, and once in a while I read along to be sure, thankful that the embedded videos of Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns, Brian Turner, and Carl Jung, still play.

There are posts on sports blogs and local sports forums that reach 10,000 in a relative snap. And what’s nine months worth of ten thousand hits to a sports star or rock star–other than one night’s work at a stadium? Or the tens of millions who have watched Marvelous Marvin Hagler or Tommy Hearns on a screen?

If I had a dollar for each click into Alley War Poetry, I would have $10,000. If I had a nickel for each, I would have $500. But I don’t. I have these ten thousand thanks tonight. Thank you, ten thousand times.

To celebrate, I have selected two songs to embed, each of which has sold many more than ten thousand records, and two poems that have been read from many more than ten thousand books. Enjoy. And again, ten thousand thanks.

   

_____

   

            by “silver-tongued” Joshua Sylvester (1563—1618)
   

            Love’s Omnipresence
   

            Were I as base as is the lowly plain,
            And you, my Love, as high as heaven above,
            Yet should the thoughts of me your humble swain
            Ascend to heaven, in honour of my Love.

            Were I as high as heaven above the plain,
            And you, my Love, as humble and as low
            As are the deepest bottoms of the main,
            Whereso’er you were, with you my love should go.

            Were you the earth, dear Love, and I the skies,
            My love should shine on you like to the sun,
            And look upon you with ten thousand eyes
            Till heaven wax’d blind, and till the world were done.

            Whereso’er I am, below, or else above you,
            Whereso’er you are, my heart shall truly love you.

   

   

                  by William Wordsworth (1770—1850)
   

                  The Daffodils
   

                  I wander’d lonely as a cloud
                  That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
                  When all at once I saw a crowd,
                  A host of golden daffodils,
                  Beside the lake, beneath the trees
                  Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

                  Continuous as the stars that shine
                  And twinkle on the milky way,
                  They stretch’d in never-ending line
                  Along the margin of a bay:
                  Ten thousand saw I at a glance
                  Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

                  The waves beside them danced, but they
                  Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
                  A Poet could not but be gay
                  In such a jocund company!
                  I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
                  What wealth the show to me had brought;

                  For oft, when on my couch I lie
                  In vacant or in pensive mood,
                  They flash upon that inward eye
                  Which is the bliss of solitude;
                  And then my heart with pleasure fills,
                  And dances with the daffodils.

   

_____

   

10000 Maniacs with Natalie Merchant: Hey Jack Kerouac

   

10000 Maniacs with Mary Ramsey: More Than This

   

_____

   

   

_____

   

February 8, 2008

The Long Abandon’d Hill, for Frank Wilson as he retires

~~~~~

 


   

It is not quite right to say that Frank Wilson, books editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, is retiring today. It is better to say that The Inquirer is retiring.

In parts of the world where there is tyrannical rule, our journalists and poets are politically silenced as threats, because they start the fight; they bring to the people’s consciousnesses new and great directions for all; they cannot find it within themselves not to do this. And often these persecuted journalists and poets are the self-same. In this sense, at points of liberation, the seed of poetry is the seed of the journalism. Frank is just this kind of poet/journalist. Only we find him, not in Iraq or Burma, or even within some persecuted diaspora or trapped people, but as everyone’s brother, in the City of Brotherly Love.

While others were still looking for good poetry exclusively in book stores, print periodicals, and English departments, Frank has been seeking and finding it online, as it is written.    He brings to the fore fresh talent, and knows there are new channels to explore for this. All barriers may be broken, including whether someone has graduated 8th grade yet. If it’s good, it’s good. He’s at what we think of as retirement age, and he still looks for news ways to write his own book reviews. He’s cutting edge. He takes ancient wisdom and merges it with creative discovery. He’s even taken a good old newspaper, and brought the Books department into this 21st century we are all forming and adjusting to.

It seems newspapers do not know what to do with the web. Poets, on the other hand, do. We write and publish on it, and look for ways we can use our creativity through it. The web makes poetry thrive and live. Frank senses these developments like a poet does, and blazes them.    He is a leader for online poetry, selecting the finest to bring to wide readership.

The Philadelphia Inquirer is cutting back, though, while Frank is thriving. I wanted management there to be smart, recognize what they had, and open the vault for a new paycheck for Frank. But, maybe the Inquirer is just too old. Maybe it is time for the good old newspaper to retire from Frank Wilson.    Yes, let him find something else to take the old newspaper’s position. Frank has not retired, he has been unleashed–or, better yet, “untied”.
 

Reading Jack’s words after all these years, remembering how much they meant to me once, how I was sure I wouldn’t don any gray flannel suit and trudge to an office day in, day out, and knowing full well that tomorrow morning and the day after and after I’ll tie my tie and sit down at my desk yet again, well, it makes me wonder if I can still, even at this late date, salvage me some authenticity. Yeah, reading Jack has reminded me that living means more than just making a living, and that it’s always easier to get along by going along. As Ray confesses, “I had no guts anyway . . . .”
                                                                        –Frank Wilson, from Jack Kerouac’s sound of America
 

Below are seven retirement poems, the last being Cowper’s, that I have spent the evening preparing to untie, for Frank Wilson.
 


   

 

 

~~~~~

 

by Hezekiah Salem (Philip Morin Freneau, 1752-1832)
 

On Retirement
 

A hermit’s house beside a stream
    With forests planted round,
Whatever it to you may seem
More real happiness I deem
    Than if I were a monarch crown’d

A cottage I could call my own,
    Remote from domes of care;
A little garden walled with stone,
The wall with ivy overgrown,
    A limpid fountain near.

Would more substantial joys afford,
    More real bliss impart
Than all the wealth that misers hoard,
Than vanquish’d worlds, or worlds restored–
    Mere cankers of the heart!

Vain, foolish man! how vast thy pride,
    How little can your wants supply!–
‘Tis surely wrong to grasp so wide–
You act as if you only had
    To vanquish–not to die!

 

 

~~~~~

 

by William Ladd (1755-1786)
 

Retirement
 

    Hail, sweet retirement, hail!
Best state of man below,
To smooth the tide of passions frail,
And bear the soul away from scenery of wo.
    When, retired from busy noise,
Vexing cares and troubled joys,
To a mild serener air,
In the country we repair:
Calm enjoy the rural scene,
Sportive o’er the meadows green:
When the sun’s enlivening ray
Speaks the genial month of May,
Lo! his amorous, wanton beams
Dance on yonder crystal streams;
In soft dalliance pass the hours,
Kissing dew-drops from the flowers,
While soft music through the grove,
Sweetly tunes the soul to love.
And the hills harmonious round
Echo with responsive sound;
There the turtle-dove alone,
Makes his soft, melodious moan;
While from yonder bough ‘t is heard,
Sweetly chirps the yellow-bird:
There the linnet’s downy throat
Warbles the responsive note;
And to all the neighboring groves,
Robin Redbreast tells his loves.
    There, Amanda, we might walk,
And of soft endearments talk;
Or anon we’d listen, love,
To the gently cooing dove.
In some sweet, embowering shade,
Some fair seat by nature made,
I my love would gently place,
On the tender woven grass:
Seated by thy lovely side,
Oh, how great would be my pride!
While my soul should fix on thine,
Oh the joy to call thee mine!
    For why should doves have more delight,
Than we, my sweet Amanda, might?
And why should larks and linnets be
More happy, lovely maid, than we?
    There the pride of genius blooms,
There sweet contemplation comes:
There is science, heavenly fair,
Sweet philosophy is there;
With each author valued most,
Ancient glory, modern boast.
There the mind may revel o’er
Doughty deeds of days of yore;
How the mighty warriors stood,
How the field was dyed in blood,
How the shores were heap’d with dead,
And the rivers stream’d with red;
While the heroes’ souls on flame
Urged them on to deathless fame.
Or we view a different age
Pictured in the historic page–
Kings, descending from a throne;
Tyrants, making kingdoms groan,
With each care to state allied,
And all the scenery of pride.
Or perhaps we’ll study o’er
Books of philosophic lore;
Read what Socrates has thought,
And how godlike Plato wrote;
View the earth with Bacon’s eyes;
Or, with Newton, read the skies;
See each planetary ball,
One great sun attracting all:
All by gravitation held,
Self-attracted, self-propelled:
We shall cheat away old time,
Passing moments so sublime.
    Hail, sweet retirement, hail!
Best state of man below,
To smooth the tide of passions frail,
And bear the soul away from scenery of wo.

 

 

~~~~~

 

an ode
 

by Thomas Warton (1687-1745)
 

Retirement
 

On beds of daisies idly laid,
The willow waving o’er my head,
Now morning, on the bending stem,
Hangs the round and glittering gem,
Lull’d by the lapse of yonder spring,
Of nature’s various charms I sing:
Ambition, pride, and pomp, adieu,
For what has joy to do with you?

Joy, rose-lipt dryad, loves to dwell
In sunny field or mossy cell;
Delights on echoing hills to hear
The reaper’s song, or lowing steer;
Or view, with tenfold plenty spread,
The crowded corn-field, blooming mead;
While beauty, health, and innocence,
Transport the eye, the soul, the sense.

Not frescoed roofs, not beds if state,
Not guards that round a monarch wait;
Not crowds of flatterers can scare,
From loftiest courts intruding Care.
Midst odours, splendours, banquets, wine,
While minstrels sound, while tapers shine,
In sable stole sad Care will come,
And darken the sad drawing-room.

Nymphs of the groves, in green array’d,
Conduct me to your thickest shade;
Deep in the bosom of the vale,
Where haunts the lonesome nightingale;
Where Contemplation, maid divine,
Leans against some aged pine,
Wrapt in solemn thought profound,
Here eyes fix’t stedfast on the ground.

Oh, virtue’s nurse, retired queen,
By saints alone and hermits seen,
Beyond vain mortal wishes wise,
Teach me St. James’s to despise;
For what are crowded courts, but schools
For fops, or hospitals for fools;
Where slaves and madmen, young and old,
Meet to adore some calf of gold?

 

 

~~~~~

 

Villula, . . .
Me tibi, et hos unâ mecum, et quos semper amavi,
Commendo.
 

by W.R. Whatton (1790-1835)
 

To Retirement
 

Know’st thou the vale where the silver-stream’d fountain
    Reflects the sweet image of Peace as it flows,
Where the pine-tree and birch at the foot of the mountain
    Conceal in its bosom the myrtle and rose?

Where the wood-thrush and blackbird in wild notes are wooing
    The care that engrosses each mate’s anxious breast;
And the ringdove and turtle so tenderly cooing,
    Are grateful to Nature for being so blest!

Know’st thou the cottage where innocent pleasure
    Enlivens the circle round Virtue’s fair shrine,
Where the bright star of hope sheds its ray without measure,
    And Health and Contentment together entwine?

‘Tis there I’d retire from the world’s vain commotion,
    And calmly enjoy the sweet hope of release:
As the fisher’s frail bark on the storm-troubled ocean
    Views gladly the port where her dangers will cease.

‘This there the fond dreams of my infancy courting,
    I’d trace the gay visions of Mem’ry so bright,
And dwell on the scenes where so wantonly sporting
    Have fled the swift minutes of boyish delight.

 

 

~~~~~

 

by James Beattie (1735-1803)
 

Retirement
 

                    Shook from the purple wings of even
                        When dews impearl the grove,
                    And from the dark’ning verge of heaven
                        Beams the sweet star of Love;
                    Laid on a daisy-sprinkled green,
                        Beside a plaintive stream,
                    A meek-ey’d youth of serious mien
                        Indulg’d this solemn theme.

Ye cliffs, in hoary grandeur pil’d
    High o’er the glimmering dale!
Ye groves, along whose windings wild
    Soft sighs the sadd’ning gale!
Where oft lone Melancholy strays,
    By wilder’d Fancy sway’d,
What time the wan moon’s yellow rays
    Gleam thro’ the chequer’d shade!

To you, ye wastes, whose artless charms
    Ne’er drew Ambition’s eye,
‘Scap’d a tumultuos world’s alarms,
    To your retreats I fly:
Deep in your soft sequester’d bower,
    Let me my woes resign;
Where Solitude, mild modest power,
    Leans on her ivy’d shrine.

How shall I woo thee, matchless fair
    Thy heavenly smile how win!
Thy smile, that smoothes the brow of Care,
    And stills the storm within!
O wilt thou to thy favourite grove
    Thine ardent votary bring,
And bless his hours, and bid them move
    Serene on silent wing!

Oft let Rememberance soothe his mind
    With dreams of former days,
When soft on Leisure’s lap reclin’d,
    He caroll’d sprightly lays:
Bless’d days! when Fancy smile’d at Care,
    When Pleasure toy’d with Truth,
Nor Envy, with malignant glare,
    Had harm’d his simple youth.

‘Twas then, O Solitude! to thee
    His early vows were paid,
From heart sincere, and warm, and free,
    Devoted to the shade.
Ah! why did Fate his steps decoy
    In thorny paths to roam,
Remote from all congenial joy!
    O take thy wanderer home!

Henceforth thy awful haunts be mine!
    The long abandon’d hill;
The hollow cliff, whose waving pine
    O’erhangs the darksome rill;
Whence the scar’d owl, on pinions grey,
    Breaks from the rustling boughs,
And down the lone vale sails away
    To shades of deep repose.

O while to thee the woodland pours
    It’s wildly warbling song,
And fragrant from the waste of flowers
    The Zephyr breathes along;
Let no rude sound invade from far,
    No vagrant foot be nigh,
No ray from Grandeur’s gilded car
    Flash on the startled eye!

Yet if some pilgrim, ‘mid the glade,
    Thy hallow’d bowers explore,
O guard from harm his hoary head,
    And listen to his lore!
For he of joys divine shall tell,
    That wean from earthly woe,
And triumph o’er the mighty spell
    That chains the heart below.

For me no more the path invites
    Ambition loves to tread;
No more I climb those toilsome heights,
    By guileful Hope misled:
Leaps my fond flutt’ring heart no more
    To Mirth’s enlivening strain;
For present pleasure soon is o’er,
    And all the past is vain!

 

 

~~~~~

 

by Richard Garnett (1835-1906)
 

Garibaldi’s Retirement
 

Not that three armies thou didst overthrow,
    Not that three cities oped their gates to thee,
    I praise thee, Chief, not for this royalty
Decked with new crowns, that utterly laid low:
For nothing of all thou didst forsake to go
    And tend thy vines amid the Etrurian Sea,
    Not even that thou didst this–though history
Retread two thousand selfish years to show
Another Cincinnatus!    Rather for this,
    The having lived such life, that even this deed
Of stress heroic natural seems as is
    Calm night, when glorious day it doth succeed;
And we, forewarned by surest auguries,
    The amazing act with no amazement read.

 

 

~~~~~

 

. . . studiis florens ignobilis otî.
                                  Virg. Geor. lib. 4.
 

by William Cowper (1731-1800)
 

Retirement
 

Hackney’d in business, wearied at that oar,
Which thousands, once fast chain’d to, quit no more,
But which, when life at ebb runs weak and low,
All wish, or seem to wish, they could forego;
The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where, all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequester’d spot,
Or recollected only to gild o’er,
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of Ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
And, having liv’d a trifler, die a man.
Thus Conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebell’d against, not yet suppress’d,
And calls a creature form’d for God alone,
For Heav’n’s high putposes, and not his own,
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates and what inflames,
From cities humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain,
Where works of man are cluster’d close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions where, in spite of sin and wo,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove,
Remind him of his Maker’s pow’r and love.
‘Tis well if, look’d for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
And grace his action ere the curtain fall.
Souls, that have long despised their heav’nly birth
Their wishes all impregnated with earth,
For threescore years employ’d with ceaseless care
in catching smoke and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways of men,
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Invet’rate habits choke th’unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate its tend’rest part,
And, draining its nutritious pow’rs to feed
Their noxious growth, starve ev’ry better seed.
    Happy, if full of days–but happier far,
If, ere we yet discern life’s ev’ning star,
Sick of the service of a world, that feeds
Its patient drudges with dry chaff and weeds,
We can escape from Custom’s idiot sway,
To serve the Sov’reign we were born t’obey.
Then sweet to muse upon his skill display’d
(infinite skill) in all that he has made!
To trace in Nature’s most minute design
The signature and stamp of pow’r divine,
Contrivance intricate, express’d with ease,
Where unassisted sight no beauty sees,
The shapely limb and lubricated joint
Within the small dimensions of a point,
Muscle and nerve miraculously spun,
His mighty work, who speaks, and it is done,
Th’invisible in things scarce, seen reveal’d,
To whom an atom is an ample field;
To wonder at a thousand insect forms,
These hatch’d, and those resuscitated worms,
New life ordain’d and brighter scenes to share,
Once prone on earth, now bouyant upon air,
Whose shape would make them, had they bulk and size,
More hideous foes than fancy can devise;
With helmet-heads and dragon-scales adorn’d,
The mighty myriads, now securely scorn’d,
Would mock the majesty of man’s high birth,
Despise his bulwarks, and unpeopled earth.
Then with a glance of fancy to survey,
far as the faculty can stretch away,
Ten thousand rivers pour’d at his command
From urns, that never fail, through ev’ry land;
These like a deluge with impetuous force,
Those winding modestly a silent course;
The cloud-surmounting Alps, the fruitful vales;
Seas, on which ev’ry nation spreads her sails;
The sun, a world whence other worlds drink light
The crescent moon, the diadem of night;
Stars countless, each in his appointed place,
Fast anchor’d in the deep abyss of space–
At such a sight to catch the poet’s flame,
And with the rapture like his own exclaim,
These are thy glorious works, thou source of good,
How dimly seen, how faintly understood!
Thine, and upheld by thy paternal care,
This universal frame, thus wondrous fair;
Thy pow’r divine, and bounty beyond thought
Ador’d and prais’d in all that thou hast wrought.
Absorb’d in that immensity I see,
I shrink abas’d, and yet aspire to thee;
Instruct me, guide me to that heav’nly day
Thy words more clearly than thy works display.
That, while thy truths my grosser thoughts refine,
I may resemble thee, and call thee mine.
    O, blest proficiency! surpassing all,
That men erroneously their glory call,
The recompense that arts or arms can yield,
The bar, the senate, or the tented field.
Compar’d with this sublimest life below,
Ye kings and rulers, what have courts to show?
Thus studied, us’d and consecrated thus,
On earth what is, seems form’d indeed for us:
Not as the plaything of a froward child,
Fretful unless diverted and beguil’d,
Much less to feed and fan the fatal fires
Of pride, ambition, or impure desires,
But as a scale, by which the soul ascends
From mighty means to more important ends
Securely, though by steps but rarely trod,
Mounts from inferiour being up to God,
And sees, by no fallacious light or dim,
Earth made for man, and man himself for him.
    Not that I mean t’approve, or would enforce,
A superstitious and monastick course:
Truth is not local, God alike pervades
And fills the world of traffick and the shades,
And may be fear’d amidst the busiest scenes,
Or scorn’d where business never intervenes.
But ’tis not easy with a mind like ours,
Conscious of weakness in its noblest pow’rs,
And in a world where, other ills apart,
The roving eye misleads the careless heart,
To limit Thought, by nature prone to stray
Wherever freakish Fancy points the way;
To bid the pleadings of Self-love be still,
Resign our own and seek our Maker’s will;
To spread the page of Scripture, and compare
Our conduct with the laws engraven there;
To measure all that passes in the breast,
Faithfully, fairly, by the sacred test:
To dive into the secret deeps within,
To spare no passion and no fav’rite sin,
And search the themes, important above all,
Ourselves, and our recov’ry from our fall.
But leisure, silence, and a mind releas’d
From anxious thoughts how wealth may be increas’d,
How to secure, in some propitious hour,
The point of int’rest or the post of pow’r,
A soul serene, and equally retir’d
From objects too much dreaded or desir’d,
Safe from the clamours of perverse dispute,
At least are friendly to the great pursuit.
    Op’ning the map of God’s extensive plan,
We find a little isle, this life of man;
Eternity’s unknown expanse appears
Circling around and limiting his years.
The busy race examine and explore
Each creek and cavern of the dang’rous shore,
With care collect what in their eyes excels,
Some shining pebbles, and some weeds and shells;
Thus laden, dream that they are rich and great,
And happiest he that groans beneath his weight.
The waves o’ertake them in their serious play,
And ev’ry hour sweeps multitudes away;
They shriek and sink, survivors start and weep,
Pursue their sport, and follow to the deep.
A few forsake the throng; with lifted eyes
Ask wealth of Heaven, and gain a real prize,
Truth, wisdom, grace, and peace like that above,
Seal’d with his signet whom they serve and love;
Scorn’d by the rest, with patient hope they wait
A kind release from their imperfect state,
And unregretted are soon snatch’d away
From scenes of sorrow into glorious day.
    Nor these alone prefer a life recluse,
Who seek retirement for its proper use;
The love of change, that lives in ev’ry breast,
Genius, and temper, and desire of rest,
Discordant motives in one centre meet,
And each inclines its vot’ry to retreat.
Some minds by nature are averse to noise,
And hate the tumult half the world enjoys,
The lure of av’rice, or the pompous prize
That courts display before ambitious eyes;
The fruits that hang on pleasure’s flow’ry stem,
Whate’er enchants them, are no snares to them.
To them the deep recess of dusky groves,
Or forest, where the deer securely roves,
The fall of waters, and the song of birds,
And hills that echo to the distant herds,
Are luxuries excelling all the glare
The world can boast, and her chief fav’rites share.
With eager step, and carelessly array’d,
For such a cause the poet seeks the shade,
From all he sees he catches new delight,
Pleas’d Fancy claps her pinions at the sight,
The rising or the setting orb of day,
The clouds that flit, or slowly float away,
Nature in all the various shapes she wears,
Frowning in storms, or breathing gentle airs,
The snowy robe her wintry state assumes,
Her summer heats, her fruits, and her perfumes,
All, all alike transport the glowing bard,
Success in rhyme his glory and reward.
O Nature! whose Elysian scenes disclose
His bright perfections at whose word they rose,
Next to that power who form’d thee, and sustains,
Be thou the great inspirer of my strains.
Still, as I touch the lyre, do thou expand
Thy genuine charms, and guide an artless hand,
That I may catch a fire but rarely known,
Give useful light, though I should miss renown.
And, poring on thy page, whose ev’ry line
Bears proof of an intelligence divine,
May feel a heart enrich’d by what it pays,
That builds its glory on its Maker’s praise.
Woe to the man whose wit disclaims its use,
Glitt’ring in vain, or only to seduce,
Who studies nature with a wanton eye,
Admires the work, but slips the lesson by;
His hours of leisure and recess employs
In drawing pictures of forbidden joys,
Retires to blazon his own worthless name,
Or shoot the careless with a surer aim.
    The lover too shuns business and alarms,
Tender idolater of absent charms.
Saints offer nothing in their warmest pray’rs
That he devotes not with a zeal like theirs;
‘Tis consecration of his heart, soul, time,
And every thought that wanders is a crime.
In sighs he worships his supremely fair,
And weeps a sad libation in despair;
Adores a creature, and, devout in vain,
Wins in return an answer of disdain.
As woodbine weds the plant within her reach,
Rough elm, or smooth-grain’d ash, or glossy beech
In spiral rings ascends the trunk, and lays
Her golden tassels on the leafy sprays,
But does a mischief while she lends a grace,
Strait’ning its growth by such a strict embrace;
So love, that clings around the noblest minds,
Forbids th’advancement of the soul he binds;
The suitor’s air, indeed, he soon improves,
And forms it to the taste of her he loves,
Teaches his eyes a language, and no less
Refines his speech, and fashions his address;
But farewell promises of happier fruits,
Manly designs, and learning’s grave pursuits;
Girt with a chain he cannot wish to break,
His only bliss is sorrow for her sake;
Who will may pant for glory and excel,
Her smile his aim, all higher aims farewell!
Thyrsis, Alexis, or whatever name
May least offend against so pure a flame,
Though sage advice of friends the most sincere
Sounds harshly in so delicate an snare,
And lovers, of all creatures, tame or wild,
Can least brook management, however mild,
Yet let a poet (poetry disarms
The fiercest animals with magick charms)
Risk an intrusion on thy pensive mood,
And woo and win thee to thy proper good.
Pastoral images and still retreats,
Umbrageous walks and solitary seats,
Sweet birds in concert with harmonious streams,
Soft airs, nocturnal vigils, and day-dreams,
Are all enchantments in a case like thine,
Conspire against thy peace with one design,
Soothe thee to make thee but a surer prey,
And feed the fire that wastes thy pow’rs away.
Up–God has form’d thee with a wiser view,
Not to be led in chains, but to subdue;
Calls thee to cope with enemies, and first
Points out a conflict with thyself, the worst.
Woman, indeed, a gift he would bestow
When he design’d a Paradise below,
The richest earthly boon his hands afford,
Deserves to be beloved, but not adored.
Post away swiftly to more active scenes,
Collect the scatter’d truth that study gleans,
Mix with the world, but with its wiser part,
No longer give an image all thine heart;
Its empire is not hers, nor is it thine,
‘Tis God’s just claim, prerogative divine.
    Virtuous and faithful HEBERDEN, whose skill
Attempts no task it cannot well fulfil,
Gives melancholy up to Nature’s care,
And sends the patient into purer air.
Look where he comes–in this embow’r’d alcove
Stand close conceal’d, and see a statue move:
Lips busy, and eyes fix’d, foot falling slow,
Arms hanging idly down, hands clasp’d below,
Interpret to the marking eye distress,
Such as its symptoms can alone express.
That tongue is silent now; that silent tongue
Could argue once, could jest, or join the song,
Could give advice, could censure or commend,
Or charm the sorrows of a drooping friend.
Renounc’d alike its office and its sport,
Its brisker and its graver strains fall short;
Both fail beneath a fever’s secret sway,
And like a summer brook are past away.
This is a sight for Pity to peruse,
Till she resembles faintly what she views,
Till sympathy contract a kindred pain,
Pierc’d with the woes that she laments in vain.
This, of all maladies that man infest,
Claims most compassion, and receives the least;
Job felt it, when he groan’d beneath the rod
And the barb’d arrows of a frowning God;
And such emollients as his friends could spare,
Friends such as his for modern Jobs prepare.
Blest, rather curst, with hearts that never feel,
Kept snug in caskets of close-hammer’d steel,
With mouths made only to grin wide and eat,
And minds that deem derided pain a treat,
With limbs of British oak, and nerves of wire,
And wit that puppet prompters might inspire,
Their sov’reign nostrum is a clumsy joke
On pangs enforc’d with God’s severest stroke.
But with a soul, that ever felt the sting
Of sorrow, sorrow is a sacred thing:
Not to molest, or irritate, or raise
A laugh at his expense, is slender praise;
He that has not usurp’d the name of man
Does all, and deems too little all, he can,
T’assuage the throbbings of the fester’d part,
And staunch the bleedings of a broken heart.
‘Tis not, as heads that never ache suppose,
Forg’ry of fancy, and a dream of woes;
Man is a harp, whose chords elude the sight,
Each yielding harmony disposed aright;
The screws revers’d (a task which, if he please,
God in a moment executes with ease),
Ten thousand thousand strings at once go loose,
Lost, till he tune them, all their pow’r and use.
Then neither heathy wilds, nor scenes as fair
As ever recompens’d the peasant’s care,
Nor soft declivities with tufted hills,
Nor view of waters turning busy mills,
Parks in which Art preceptress Nature weds,
Nor gardens interspers’d with flow’ry beds,
Nor gales, that catch the scent of blooming groves,
And waft it to the mourner as he roves,
Can call up life into his faded eye,
That passes all he sees unheeded by;
No wounds like those a wounded spirit feels,
No cure for such, till God, who makes them, heals.
And thou, sad suff’rer under nameless ill
That yields not to the touch of human skill,
Improve the kind occasion, understand
A Father’s frown, and kiss his chast’ning hand.
To thee the dayspring, and the blaze of noon,
The purple ev’ning and resplendent moon,
The stars that, sprinkled o’er the vault of night,
Seem drops descending in a show’r of light,
Shine not, or undesir’d and hated shine,
Seen through the medium of a cloud like thine:
Yet seek him, in his favour life is found,
All bliss beside a shadow or a sound:
Then heav’n, eclips’d so long, and this dull earth,
Shall seem to start into a second birth;
Nature, assuming a more lovely face,
Borr’wing a beauty from the works of grace,
Shall be despis’d and overlook’d no more,
Shall fill thee with delight unfelt before,
Impart to things inanimate a voice,
And bid her mountains and her hills rejoice;
The sound shall run along the winding vales,
And thou enjoy an Eden ere it fails.
    Ye groves (the statesman at his desk exclaims,
Sick of a thousand disappointed aims),
My patrimonial treasure and my pride,
Beneath your shades your grey possessor hide,
Receive me, languishing for that repose
The servant of the public never knows.
Ye saw me once (ah, those regretted days,
When boyish innocence was all my praise!)
Hour after hour delightfully allot
To studies then familiar, since forgot,
And cultivate a taste for ancient song,
Catching its ardour as I mus’d along;
Nor seldom, as propitious Heav’n might send,
What once I valu’d and could boast, a friend,
Were witnesses how cordially I press’d
His undissembling virtue to my breast;
Receive me now, not incorrupt as then,
Nor guiltless of corrupting other men,
But vers’d in arts, that, while they seem to stay
A falling empire, hasten its decay.
To the fair haven of my native home,
The wreck of what I was, fatigued I come;
For once I can approve the patriot’s voice,
And make the course he recommends my choice:
We meet at last in one sincere desire,
His wish and mine both prompt me to retire.
‘Tis done–he steps into the welcome chaise,
Lolls at his ease behind four handsome bays,
That whirl away from business and debate
The disencumber’d Atlas of the state.
Ask not the boy, who, when the breeze of morn
First shakes the glitt’ring drops from ev’ry thorn,
Unfolds his flock, then under bank or bush
Sits linking cherry-stones, or platting rush,
How fair is freedom?–he was always free:
To carve his rustick name upon a tree,
To snare the mole, or with ill-fashion’d hook
To draw th’incautious minnow from the brook,
Are life’s prime pleasures in his simple view,
His flock the chief concern he ever knew;
She shines but little in his heedless eyes,
The good we never miss we rarely prize:
But ask the noble drudge in state affairs,
Escaped from office and its constant cares,
What charms he sees in Freedom’s smile express’d,
In Freedom lost so long, now repossess’d;
The tongue whose strains were cogent as commands,
Rever’d at home, and felt in foreign lands,
Shall own itself a stamm’rer in that cause,
Or plead its silence as its best applause.
He knows indeed that, whether dress’d or rude,
Wild without art, or artfully subdued,
Nature in ev’ry form inspires delight,
But never mark’d her with so just a sight.
Her hedge-row shrubs, a variegated store,
With woodbine and wild roses mantled o’er,
Green balks and furrow’d lands, the stream, that spreads
Its cooling vapour o’er the dewy meads,
Downs, that almost escape th’inquiring eye,
That melt and fade into the distant sky,
Beauties he lately slighted as he pass’d,
Seem all created since he travell’d last.
Master of all th’enjoyments he design’d,
No rough annoyance rankling in his mind,
What early philosophick hours he keeps,
How regular his meals, how sound he sleeps!
Not sounder he, that on the mainmast head,
While morning kindles with a windy red,
Begins a long look-out for distant land,
Nor quits till ev’ning watch his giddy stand,
Then, swift descending with a seaman’s haste,
Slips to his hammock, and forgets the blast.
He chooses company, but not the squire’s,
Whose wit is rudeness, whose good-breeding tires,
Nor yet the parson’s, who would gladly come,
Obsequious when abroad, though proud at home;
Nor can he much affect the neighb’ring peer,
Whose toe of emulation treads too near;
But wisely seeks a more convenient friend,
With whom, dismissing forms, he may unbend.
A man, whom marks of condescending grace
Teach, while they flatter him, his proper place;
Who comes when call’d, and at a word withdraws,
Speaks with reserve, and listens with applause;
Some plain mechanick, who, without pretence
To birth or wit, nor gives nor takes offence;
On whom he rest well-pleas’d his weary pow’rs,
And talks and laughs away his vacant hours.
The tide of life, swift always in its course,
May run in cities with a brisker force,
But nowhere with a current so serene,
Or half so clear, as in the rural scene.
Yet how fallacious is all earthly bliss,
What obvious truths the wisest heads may miss;
Some pleasures live a month, and some a year,
But short the date of all we gather here;
No happiness is felt, except the true,
That does not charm thee more for being new.
This observation, as it chanc’d, not made,
Or, if the thought occurr’d, not duly weigh’d,
He sighs–for after all by slow degrees
The spot he lov’d has lost the power to please;
To cross his ambling pony day by day
Seems at the best but dreaming life away;
The prospect, such as might enchant despair,
He views it not, or sees no beauty there;
With aching heart, and discontented looks,
Returns at noon to billiards or to books,
But feels, while grasping at his faded joys,
A secret thirst of his renounc’d employs.
He chides the tardiness of ev’ry post,
Pants to be told of battles won or lost,
Blames his own indolence, observes, though late,
‘Tis criminal to leave a sinking state,
Flies to the levee, and, receiv’d with grace,
Kneels, kisses hands, and shines again in place.
    Suburban villas, highway-side retreats,
That dread th’encroachment of our growing streets,
Tight boxes neatly sash’d, and in a blaze
With all a July sun’s collected rays,
Delight the citizen, who, gasping there,
Breathes clouds of dust, and calls it country air.
O sweet retirement! who would balk the thought,
That could afford retirement, or could not?
‘Tis such an easy walk, so smooth and straight,
The second milestone fronts the garden gate;
A step if fair, and if a show’r approach,
They find safe shelter in the next stage-coach.
There, prison’d in a parlour snug and small,
Like bottled wasps upon a southern wall,
The man of business and his friends compress’d,
Forget their labours, and yet find no rest;
But still ’tis rural–trees are to be seen
From every window, and the fields are green;
Ducks paddle in the pond before the door,
And what could a remoter scene show more?
A sense of elegance we rarely find
The portion of a mean or vulgar mind,
And ignorance of better things makes man,
Who cannot much, rejoice in what he can;
And he, that deems his leisure well bestow’d,
In contemplation of a turnpike-road,
Is occupied as well, employs his hours
As wisely, and as much improves his pow’rs,
As he, that slumbers in pavilions grac’d
With all the charms of an accomplish’d taste.
Yet hence, alas! insolvencies; and hence
Th’unpitied victim of ill-judg’d expense,
From all his wearisome engagements freed,
Shakes hands with business and retires indeed.
    Your prudent grand-mammas, ye modern belles,
Content with Bristol, Bath, and Tunbridge-wells,
When health requir’d it would consent to roam,
Else more attach’d to pleasures found at home;
But now alike, gay widow, virgin, wife,
Ingenious to diversify dull life,
In coaches, chaises, caravans, and hoys,
Fly to the coast for daily, nightly joys;
And all, impatient of dry land, agree
With one consent to rush into the sea.
Ocean exhibits, fathomless and broad,
Much of the pow’r and majesty of God.
He swathes about the swelling of the deep,
That shines and rests, as infants smile and sleep;
Vast as it is, it answers as it flows
The breathings of the lightest air that blows;
Curling and whit’ning over all the waste,
The rising waves obey th’increasing blast,
Abrupt and horrid as the tempest roars,
Thunder and flash upon the steadfast shores,
Till he, that rides the whirlwind, checks the rein,
Then all the world of waters sleeps again.
Nereids or Dryads, as the fashion leads,
Now in the floods, now panting in the meads,
Vot’ries of Pleasure still, where’er she dwells,
Near barren rocks, in palaces, or cells,
O grant a poet leave to recommend
(A poet fond of Nature, and your friend)
Her slighted works to your admiring view;
Her works must needs excel, who fashion’d you.
Would ye, when rambling in your morning ride,
With some unmeaning coxcomb at your side,
Condemn the prattler for his idle pains,
To waste unheard the musick of his strains,
And, deaf to all th’impertinence of tongue,
That, while it courts, affronts and does you wrong,
Mark well the finish’d plan without a fault,
The seas globose and huge, th’o’erarching vault,
Earth’s millions daily fed, a world employ’d
In gath’ring plenty yet to be enjoy’d,
Till gratitude grew vocal in the praise
Of God, beneficent in all his ways;
Grac’d with such wisdom, how would beauty shine!
Ye want but that to seem indeed divine.
    Anticipated rents, and bills unpaid,
Force many a shining youth into the shade,
Not to redeem his time, but his estate,
And play the fool, but at a cheaper rate.
There, hid in loath’d obscurity, remov’d
From pleasures left, but never more belov’d,
He just endures, and with a sickly spleen
Sighs o’er the beauties of the charming scene.
Nature indeed looks prettily in rhyme;
Streams tinkle sweetly in poetick chime:
The warblings of the blackbird, clear and strong,
Are musical enough in Thomson’s song;
And Cobham’s groves, and Windsor’s green retreats,
When Pope describes them, have a thousand sweets;
He likes the country, but in truth must own,
Most likes it, when he studies it in town.
    Poor Jack–no matter who–for when I blame,
I pity, and must therefore sink the name,
Lived in his saddle, lov’d the chase, the course,
And always, ere he mounted, kiss’d his horse.
The estate, his sires had own’d in ancient years,
Was quickly distanc’d, match’d against a peer’s.
Jack vanish’d, was regretted and forgot;
‘Tis wild good-nature’s never-failing lot.
At length, when all had long suppos’d him dead,
By cold submersion, razor, rope, or lead,
My lord, alighting at his usual place,
The Crown, took notice of an ostler’s face.
Jack knew his friend, but hop’d in that disguise
He might escape the most observing eyes,
And whistling, as if unconcern’d and gay,
Curried his nag, and look’d another way;
Convinc’d at last, upon a nearer view,
‘Twas he, the same, the very Jack he knew,
O’erwhelm’d at once with wonder, grief, and joy,
He press’d him much to quit his base employ;
His countenance, his purse, his heart, his hand,
Influence and pow’r, were all at his command:
Peers are not always gen’rous as well-bred,
But Granby was, meant truly what he said.
Jack bow’d, and was obliged–confess’d ’twas strange,
That so retir’d he should not wish a change,
But knew no medium between guzzling beer,
And his old stint–three thousand pounds a year.
    Thus some retire to nourish hopeless wo;
Some seeking happiness not found below;
Some to comply with humour and a mind
To social scenes by nature disinclin’d;
Some sway’d by fashion, some by deep disgust;
Some self-impoverish’d, and because they must;
But few, that court Retirement, are aware
Of half the toils they must encounter there.
    Lucrative offices are seldom lost
For want of powers proportion’d to the post:
Give e’en a dunce th’employment he desires,
And he soon finds the talents it requires;
A business with an income at its heels
Furnishes always oil for its own wheels.
But in his arduous enterprise to close
His active years with indolent repose,
He finds the labours of that state exceed
His utmost faculties, severe indeed.
‘Tis easy to resign a toilsome place,
But not to manage leisure with a grace;
Absence of occupation is not rest,
A mind quite vacant is a mind distress’d,
The vet’ran steed, excus’d his task at length,
In kind compassion of his failing strength,
And turn’d into the park or mead to graze,
Exempt from future service all his days,
There feels a pleasure perfect in its kind,
Ranges at liberty, and snuffs the wind:
But when his lord would quit the busy road,
To taste a joy like that he has bestow’d,
He proves, less happy than his favour’d brute,
A life of ease a difficult pursuit.
Thought, to the man that never thinks, may seem
As natural as when asleep to dream:
But reveries (for human minds will act),
Specious in show, impossible in fact,
Those flimsy webs, that break as soon as wrought,
Attain not to the dignity of thought:
Nor yet the swarms that occupy the brain,
Where dreams of dress, intrigue, and pleasure reign;
Nor such as useless conversation breeds,
Or lust engenders, and indulgence feeds.
Whence, and what are we? to what end ordain’d?
What means the drama by the world sustain’d?
Business or vain amusement, care or mirth,
Divide the frail inhabitants of earth.
Is duty a mere sport, or an employ?
Life an entrusted talent, or a toy?
Is there, as reason, conscience, Scripture, say,
Cause to provide for a great future day,
When, earth’s assign’d duration at an end,
Man shall be summon’d, and the dead attend?
The trumpet–will it sound, the curtain rise,
And shew th’august tribunal of the skies,
Where no prevarication shall avail,
Where eloquence and artifice shall fail,
The pride of arrogant distinctions fall,
And conscience and our conduct judge us all?
Pardon me, ye that give the midnight oil
To learned cares or philosophick toil;
Though I revere your honourable names,
Your useful labours, and important aims,
And hold the world indebted to your aid,
Enrich’d with the discoveries ye have made;
Yet let me stand excused, if I esteem
A mind employ’d on so sublime a theme,
Pushing her bold inquiry to the date
And outline of the present transient state,
And, after poising her advent’rous wings,
Settling at last upon eternal things,
Far more intelligent, and better taught
The strenuous use of profitable thought,
Than ye, when happiest, and enlighten’d most,
And highest in renown, can justly boast.
    A mind unnerv’d, or indispos’d to bear
The weight of subjects worthiest of her care,
Whatever hopes a change of scene inspires,
Must change her nature, or in vain retires.
An idler is a watch, that wants both hands,
As useless if it goes, as when it stands.
Books therefore, not the scandal of the shelves,
In which lewd sensualists print out themselves;
Nor those, in which the stage gives vice a blow,
With what success let modern manners shew;
Nor his, who, for the bane of thousands born,
Built God a church, and laugh’d his Word to scorn,
Skilful alike to seem devout and just,
And stab religion with a sly side-thrust;
Nor those of learn’d philologists, who chase
A panting syllable through time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah’s ark;
But such as Learning without false pretence,
The friend of Truth, th’associate of sound Sense,
And such as, in the zeal of good design,
Strong judgment lab’ring in the Scripture mine,
All such as manly and great souls produce,
Worthy to live, and of eternal use:
Behold in these what leisure hours demand,
Amusement and true knowledge hand in hand.
Luxury gives the mind a childish cast,
And, while she polishes, perverts the taste;
Habits of close attention, thinking heads,
Become more rare as dissipation spreads,
Till authors hear at length one general cry,
Tickle and entertain us, or we die.
The loud demand, from year to year the same,
Beggars Invention, and makes Fancy lame;
Till farce itself, most mournfully jejune,
Calls for the kind assistance of a tune;
And novels (witness every month’s review)
Belie their name, and offer nothing new.
The mind, relaxing into needful sport,
Should turn to writers of an abler sort,
Whose wit well manag’d, and whose classick style,
Give truth a lustre, and make wisdom smile.
Friends (for I cannot stint, as some have done,
Too rigid in my view, that name to one;
Though one, I grant it, in the gen’rous breast
Will stand advanc’d a step above the rest;
Flowers by that name promiscuously we call,
But one, the rose, the regent of them all)–
Friends, not adopted with a schoolboy’s haste,
But chosen with a nice discerning taste,
Well born, well disciplin’d, who, plac’d apart
From vulgar minds, have honour much at heart,
And, tho’ the world may think th’ingredients odd,
The love of virtue, and the fear of God!
    Such friends prevent what else would soon succeed,
A temper rustick as the life we lead,
And keep the polish of the manners clean,
As theirs who bustle in the busiest scene;
For solitude, however some may rave,
Seeming a sanctuary, proves a grave,
A sepulchre, in which the living lie,
Where all good qualities grow sick and die.
I praise the Frenchman*, his remark was shrewd,
How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude!
But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
Whom I may whisper–solitude is sweet.
Yet neither these delights, nor aught beside,
That appetite can ask, or wealth provide,
Can save us always from a tedious day,
Or shine the dulness of still life away;
Divine communion, carefully enjoy’d,
Or sought with energy, must fill the void.
Oh, sacred art, to which alone life owes
Its happiest seasons, and a peaceful close,
Scorn’d in a world, indebted to that scorn
For evils daily felt and hardly borne,
Not knowing thee, we reap with bleeding hands,
Flow’rs of rank odour upon thorny lands,
And, while Experience cautions us in vain,
Grasp seeming happiness, and find it pain.
Despondence, self-deserted in her grief,
Lost by abandoning her own relief,
Murmuring and ungrateful Discontent,
That scorns afflictions mercifully meant,
Those humours, tart as wines upon the fret,
Which idleness and weariness beget;
These, and a thousand plagues, that haunt the breast,
Fond of the phantom of an earthly rest,
Divine communion chases, as the day
Drives to their dens th’obedient beasts of prey.
See Judah’s promis’d king bereft of all,
Driv’n out an exile from the face of Saul,
To distant caves the lonely wand’rer flies,
To seek that peace a tyrant’s frown denies.
Hear the sweet accents of his tuneful voice,
Hear him o’erwhelm’d with sorrow, yet rejoice;
No womanish or wailing grief has part,
No, not a moment, in his royal heart;
‘Tis manly musick, such as martyrs make,
Suff’ring with gladness for a Saviour’s sake.
His soul exults, hope animates his lays,
The sense of mercy kindles into praise,
And wilds, familiar with a lion’s roar,
Ring with ecstatick sounds unheard before;
‘Tis love like his that can alone defeat
The foes of man, or make a desert sweet.
    Religion does not censure or exclude
Unnumber’d pleasures harmlessly pursued;
To study culture, and with artful toil
To meliorate and tame the stubborn soil;
To give dissimilar yet fruitful lands
The grain, or herb, or plant that each demands;
To cherish virtue in an humble state,
And share the joys your bounty may create;
To mark the matchless workings of the pow’r
That shuts within its seed the future flow’r,
Bids these in elegance of form excel,
In colour these, and those delight the smell,
Sends Nature forth the daughter of the skies,
To dance on earth, and charm all human eyes;
To teach the canvas innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet–
These, these are arts pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of Time.
    Me poetry (or, rather, notes that aim
Feebly and vainly at poetick fame)
Employs, shut out from more important views,
Fast by the banks of the slow-winding Ouse;
Content if thus sequester’d I may raise
A monitor’s though not a poet’s praise,
And while I teach an art too little known,
To close life wisely, may not waste my own.
 

 

*Bruyère

 

 

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Click this picture of Frank Wilson to go to his blog post called “Well, here they are . . .”


   

 

 

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Click this picture of Frank Wilson to go to his blog post called “Why I decided . . .”


   

 

 

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December 6, 2007

Today is World Samina Malik Day: Terrorize your lyrics

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A reminder about December 6th, World Samina Malik Day. It is after 11:00pm here on East Coast USA, which means that it is already December 6th in half the world. I greet you in freedom, and with poetic license to do so–for now. Yet, this is the day Samina will be sentenced for writing poetry, no matter how lenient or harsh. Sentenced.

She is an online poet. Her being found guilty convicts us all, every poet who has ever imagined and wrote outside the bounds of the politically correct. Every poet.

Last month, she was found guilty of a “lesser charge” of “possessing documents likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” What she downloaded, however, are documents likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of lyricism. In fact, she did not only think about committing lyricism, she did it.

After work tomorrow, which here will be after she is sentenced, I will dress like her (which for me will mean looking like an aging ninja in jeans). I will download The Koran, to align myself with Muslim thought, and consider myself a brother born foreign. Links are available here: Wikipedia: The Qur’an. I will visit Islamic forums and blogs, and download the al Qaeda manual. Links to some Islamic sites can be found at the bottom here: World Samina Malik Day.

I will surf and muse from there. I will look for the taboo, the non-PC. I will look into beheading, and surf and muse from there, to Torture, Al-Qaeda Style, and beyond. All this in preparation for an act of lyricism, to be a lyrical terrorist, to be a poet.

Please join me, where horror and political protest merge into the ears of those who would be politically correct, where terror enters lyricism, where Lyrical Babe became Lyrical Terrorist. Let’s do her taboo. You may.

   

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September 24, 2007

Alley War Poetry

   

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Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas “The Hit Man” Hearns

Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, April 15, 1985

Announcers: Al Bernstein and Al Michaels

   

Alley War Poetry

   

The pugilists are in the desert, somewhere far from most of humanity and society. They are at a resort, however, a magnificent getaway, elevated in the middle of a roped-off ring, with cameras surrounding. They have taken the center of the world from us, and placed it into that squared area they occupy. They are poets, informing us of brutality and violence from this very different point of view.

We must relinquish our individual world centers to theirs, but in doing so, these centers merge in passing. In the merger, the metaphor is no longer a metaphor. It does not stand for affecting our lives; it affects our lives. Thus created is poetry, a poetry written before a word is spoken, before the words for it are thought of, and in vivo. Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns are scripting the wordless narrative out of earshot, the good and the bad of it, a new violence for us upon first viewing, something to reflect upon afterward, something brutal with important aspects, both a metaphor and a reality to re-use for different purposes, even now again, 22 years later.

There is poetry to be found in violence. Poetry is not anti-war as such. Witnessing a four-dimensional Rubik’s cube with one color wrong, the alley war poet intuits how much unravelling must be done for a short period of resolution, until new aspects bear themselves into the world, and the cube must be re-solved–this whether one or a billion dark sides surface the wrong way, whether in times of peace or war. Violence will always be an unsolved part of the whole of us and each one of us. Indeed, when he was 13, Hagler’s home was destroyed, and people around him killed, in the race riots in Newark. But as an athlete poet, when his ideas and rhythms prevail, he is prevailing, and his message comes through.

Civilly speaking, the fight could, and arguably should be stopped (if it should have taken place at all), upon Hagler’s profuse bloodshed. In earlier ages and other places, such an event would be a fight to the death, though. This violence and brutality of boxing matches are not in our civilized centers of commerce and community centers, but under the preserve of state sanction and institutional procedure. Even still, boxers like soldiers, our young adults die and become disabled through their fighting. We understand that such brutality exists, and make it against the law. Our society, through our humanity, has drawn legal and moral lines.

Yet, we are able, through such an event, to allow our shadows, what is inhumane of our humanness, to be spoken to. This is an aspect of life that has never gone away. Like the sex drive, it may either be brought out orgiastically; or in recession, monastically; but it remains part of us. The taller we are in the light, the longer the shadow, from each given vantage point. Hagler, for instance, his entire adult life, no matter where he has lived, has given himself to causes for children, as they mature in the world, and as they die in hospitals.

Sometimes the line before violence and brutality disappears. This can happen within the individual, within families, within social groups or gangs, and, during wartime. Poetry may unveil this.
   

by Wilfred Owen
   

Dulce Et Decorum Est
   

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

   

Wilfred Owen gives us brutal word poetry here, the violence everpresent in being human is heavy, the darkness brought to light. From where he stood, the darkness is out in the open. The events in this poem, however, were neither staged nor so scripted by the people doing the violence. The main character, the hero, is dying, then dead. It is gruesome. The poem existed where muses exist, and was written into words by one who would otherwise be a background player, one of the other soldiers.

But where is the poetry? Is it in his words? Not essentially. Essentially, it is in the unfolding story. It is pre-verbal: Chopin, Marceau, and Hagler. In this sense what we usually think of as poetry, is a sub genre. It is word poetry.

Let’s attempt to shift the metaphor of the poet from the pugilists to the announcers, Bernstein and Michaels. This makes Hagler and Hearns the main characters in an unfolding drama. The announcers are witnessing an event. Before their eyes, two warriors with great heart, hope and humanity are duking it out. A golden story seems to be unfolding, inspiring them. Bernstein and Michaels are streaming their words, as they relate this to us, their imagined audience, spontaneously, with repetition, simile, metaphor, alliteration, and meter that together borders on the music of song. Sometimes they really are singing.

This, then, could be thought of as a (p)entacostal event. The shaman (here, the pugilist) takes the journey into the breadths and depths of human nature, and comes back with something that the village priest is capable of interpreting into the lives of us lay people. Nowadays, the poet is expected to do both, take the inspirational journey of the hero, and then write it down for the rest of us to read and re-center from, or at least keep in our pockets for later reference. But there is a catch.

When Owen wrote Dulce Et Decorum Est, it was reflective. His journey was internal and after-the-fact. A poet may tell us fiction, but Owen relates something that had happened, something he witnessed in real life. Both the essential poetry and the verbal poetry came from him–what we have come to expect from our poets. Note too that, although it is often recited, the poem’s birth event is in written, not spoken, form–not to say he was not whispering or even singing the lines as he composed, maybe he was. Nor was he dancing or beating a drum. Both Hagler and Hearns, however, were in their ways dancing. Our shamans speak to us in many ways.

Bernstein and Michaels have a poetic event unfolding before them. Their poetics are of the spoken language kind (and here I don’t mean to compare or even debate poetic ability, simply to grant that they speak in verse). Note instead, that their rhythms are different from the rhythms of the fighters. That’s the catch I mentioned. It is a split we witness, between the movement and focus of the pugilists, and the versification of the announcers. The event a poet relates, is decidedly different from the event of its relating. The verbal poem has a different sense, sound, and rhythm than the essential poetry inspiring it.

In case there is any tension, let’s bridge this gap between the spontaneous relating of an inspirational event, and the practiced writing of poetic reflection. Here is Jack Kerouac’s spontaneous bop prose, as he called it, in “On the Road”:

“He’s mad,” I said, “and yes, he’s my brother.” I saw Dean coming back with the farmer in his tractor. They hooked chains on and the farmer hauled us out of the ditch. The car was muddy brown, a whole fender was crushed. The farmer charged us five dollars. His daughters watched in the rain. The prettiest, shyest one hid far back in the field to watch and she had good reason because she was absolutely and finally the most beautiful girl Dean and I ever saw in all our lives. She was about sixteen, and had Plains complexion like wild roses, and the bluest eyes, the most lovely hair, and the modesty and quickness of a wild antelope. At every look from us she flinched. She stood there with the immense winds that blew clear down from Saskatchewan knocking her hair about her lovely head like shrouds, living curls of them. She blushed and blushed.

The rhythms in Kerouac’s bop prose, are not the rhythms of a car being yanked out of a ditch. The sounds are not close either. What a racket it must have been, and a sight and emotional sense for all to witness. But the pacing at first is as if Kerouac was somewhat out of breath, or maybe becomes a bit breathless as he recalls the event. In describing the beautiful daughter, we do not get her rhythms either, nor the rhythms of the wind blowing. We get the pacing of the witness (Jack Kerouac’s Sal Paradise), his vantage, his rhythms. We understand at once, how we could be him with his eyes, how this certain part of him seems to be a certain part of us, but in our own reflection, how we are different from him. Through his wording, we surmise as best we can, what was really taking place, both within the scene described, and within the describer.

Imagine that Bernstein and Michaels could not make it to Las Vegas. Instead, the promoters asked if they could put a microphone up to Hagler in order that he give us, in his own words, the unfolding details of the fight. Could we expect poetry from his words? I cannot help thinking of Muhammad Ali, who may have been poetic with his words before and after a fight, and maybe during as he taunted his opponents, but the poetry of his athletics was something else again. Bob Dylan is a poet in this wider sense, a song poet, which is different from being a word poet. Chopin is a poet of the piano specifically, and Marceau a poet of mime. The poetry of the artist or athlete is found in what is practiced.

Owen and Kerouac, were each able, at some juncture, to experience the poetry of the moments they relate–then as poets of the word, communicate such essence to us after the fact. In both cases, there is nothing goody-goody about what the people are doing. Owen’s war is evident. His hero is dying, a victim. Kerouac’s scene, on the other hand, involves the reckless destruction of a car, leading to the potential womanizing of a 16-year-old girl by a couple older guys passing through town. His heroes are culprits.

Whereas Owen has us look squarely at the dark side of human nature from the attitude of the light, Kerouac has us looking at the light from the vantage of the darkness. Hagler is doing the same as Kerouac, only instead of bringing fiction to an actual event, he actualizes a hoped-for event, walking through the necessary dark alley to get to the light–taking us with him like a good poet would. Here is such a poetic relationship with violence, through Iraq veteran and poet Brian Turner:
   

   

Turner begins his poem “Here, Bullet,” with what could have been the words of Marvelous Marvin Hagler if he could have scripted words into his fight with Thomas Hearns:

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started.

The world yearns for the good fight, a real live hero fighting for good to prevail, and knows the violence of it exists out there, even if in a far-off desert where poets or shamans sojourn, even if ducking from bullets in a tenement in New Jersey somewhere.
   


   

After the fight, Hagler spoke of his concern, that he hoped the fans got their money’s worth, the scheduled 15-rounder ending before the bell of the third round. He was assured that this was the case. This is not a necessary attribute of a poet, wanting others and posterity to benefit from individual inspiration. It’s good to see, though. But, whether they care or not, the poets’ service is invaluable, if only in that we come together as witnesses to each other and, therefore, ourselves. What’s even better, is if we can then continue with a conversation, informed by the poet. Here is the ending to Turner’s poem:

                        Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

As the modern poet, he accepts that he is shaman, who must complete the communicative process, and write it down for us, how “the world ends, every time.” He continues the conversation, from the vantage point of a soldier who has witnessed too often what Owen witnessed. It is from here, he seems to be responding to Carl Jung’s thoughts on death:
   

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September 24, 2006

The Babes in the Wood: a Randolph Caldecott Picture Book

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Printed in Great Britain

 

 

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author anonymous
 

THE BABES

IN THE WOOD

 

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________________________

 

The Babes in the Wood

 

003.jpg

 

                        Now ponder well, you parents deare,
                                    These wordes which I shall write;
                        A doleful story you shall heare,
                                    In time brought forth to light.

                        A gentleman of good account
                                    In Norfolke dwelt of late.
                        Who did in honour far surmount
                                    Most men of his estate.

                        Sore sicke he was, and like to dye,
                                    No helpe his life could save;
                        His wife by him as sicke did lye,
                                    And both possest one grave.
 

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                        No love between these two was lost,
                                    Each was to other kinde;
                        In love they liv’d, in love they dyed,
                                    And left two babes behinde:

                        The one a fine and pretty boy,
                                    Not passing three yeares olde;
                        The other a girl more young than he
                                    And fram’d in beautye’s molde.

                        The father left his little son,
                                    As plainlye doth appeare,
                        When he to perfect age should come
                                    Three hundred poundes a yeare.

                        And to his little daughter Jane
                                    Five hundred poundes in gold,
                        To be paid downe on marriage-day,
                                    Which might not be controll’d:
 

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                        But if the children chanced to dye,
                                    Ere they to age should come,
                        Their uncle should possesse their wealth;
                                    For so the wille did run.
 

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                        “Now, brother,” said the dying man,
                                    “Look to my children deare;
                        Be good unto my boy and girl,
                                    No friendes else have they here:

                        “To God and you I do commend
                                    My children deare this daye;
                        But little while be sure we have
                                    Within this world to staye.

                        “You must be father and mother both,
                                    And uncle all in one;
                        God knowes what will become of them,
                                    When I am dead and gone.”
 

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                        With that bespake their mother deare:
                                    “O brother kinde,” quoth shee,
                        You are the man must bring our babes
                                    To wealth or miserie:
 

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                        “And if you keep them carefully,
                                    Then God will you reward;
                        But if you otherwise should deal,
                                    God will your deedes regard.”
 

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                        With lippes as cold as any stone.
                                    They kist the children small:
                        ‘God bless you both, my children deare;’
                                    With that the teares did fall.
 

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                        These speeches then their brother spake
                                    To this sicke couple there:
                        “The keeping of your little ones,
                                    Sweet sister, do not feare:

                        “God never prosper me nor mine,
                                    Nor aught else that I have,
                        If I do wrong your children deare,
                                    When you are layd in grave.”
 

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                        The parents being dead and gone,
                                    The children home he takes,
                        And bringes them straite unto his house,
                                    Where much of them he makes.
 

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                        He had not kept these pretty babes
                                    A twelvemonth and a daye,
                        But, for their wealth, he did devise
                                    To make them both awaye.

                        He bargain’d with two ruffians strong,
                                    Which were of furious mood,
                        That they should take the children young,
                                    And slaye them in a wood.
 

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                        He told his wife an artful tale,
                                    He would the children send
                        To be brought up in faire London,
                                    With one that was his friend.
 

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                        Away then went those pretty babes,
                                    Rejoycing at that tide,
                        Rejoycing with a merry minde,
                                    They should on cock-horse ride.
 

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                        They prate and prattle pleasantly
                                    As they rode on the waye,
                        To those that should their butchers be,
                                    And work their lives’ decaye:

                        So that the pretty speeche they had,
                                    Made murderers’ heart relent:
                        And they that undertooke the deed,
                                    Full sore did now repent.

                        Yet one of them, more hard of heart,
                                    Did vow to do his charge,
                        Because the wretch, that hired him,
                                    Had paid him very large.
 

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                        The other would not agree thereto,
                                    So here they fell to strife;
                        With one another they did fight,
                                    About the children’s life:
 

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                        And he that was of mildest mood,
                                    Did slaye the other there,
                        Within an unfrequented wood,
                                    Where babes did quake for feare!
 

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                        He took the children by the hand,
                                    While teares stood in their eye,
                        And bade them come and go with him,
                                    And look they did not crye:

                        And two long miles he ledd them on,
                                    While they for food complaine:
                        “Stay here,” quoth he, “I’ll bring ye bread,
                                    When I come back againe.”
 

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                        These prettye babes, with hand in hand,
                                    Went wandering up and downe;
 

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                        But never more they sawe the man
                        Approaching from the town.
 

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                        Their prettye lippes with blackberries
                                    Were all besmear’d and dyed;
                        And when they sawe the darksome night,
                                    They sat them downe and cryed.
 

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                        Thus wandered these two prettye babes,
                                    Till death did end their grief;
                        In one another’s armes they dyed,
                                    As babes wanting relief.

                        No burial these prettye babes
                                    Of any man receives,
 

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                        Till Robin-redbreast painfully
                                    Did cover them with leaves.
 

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